A look at Motorola Smart Actions on the Droid RAZR MAXX HD

Tasker is one of the best and most powerful automation apps out there, as evidenced by the extensive variety of customized solutions that enterprising users have managed to dream up. Tasker is so powerful that it can apply to almost anything; much of the time when a question is asked – such as “Can my Android phone open a certain app when I leave my work?” or “Can my Android phone automatically go into driving mode based on certain parameters?” – the answer is usually Tasker. However, there is a small problem with that solution: while Tasker is extremely powerful, it also has a very difficult learning curve as well.

We have a very thorough Tasker tutorial for those who wish to learn how to use the software themselves, but I’ve found on my Motorola Droid RAZR MAXX HD an alternative solution that may work for users who want some basic automation, but don’t want to take all the time necessary to learn Tasker. While I initially dismissed it as bloatware, the app in question, called Motorola Smart Actions, actually has me fairly impressed with its capabilities and usefulness.

The entire premise of the app is based on a simple if/then system, which can be seen above. Within the app, the “if” statements are called triggers, and the “then” statements are called actions. Pictured above are three of the preset profiles that come with the app and can easily be enabled with little or no tweaking from the user. In addition to those seen above, Motorola also includes rules (or profiles) for workouts, work, battery charging, home, and night battery saver.

These all appear to be quite practical, and include at least one proper trigger for the intended use, as well as actions for most options people would want. I added the “Mobile Data Off” option to the “Battery Saver” profile, but otherwise it works well in stock form, just as the “Drive Smart” and “Meeting” rules. Overall, Motorola’s presets are actually useful in addition to providing a template on which to base more customized rules.

Users can make any custom rule they want in Smart Actions, provided they use the provided actions and triggers from Motorola. As seen above, there are quite a few actions that can be performed, and more than half aren’t pictured. Actions are included to launch apps; set airplane mode; reply to calls and texts automatically; set brightness, GPS, or WiFi; and even open a website or adjust display sleep time. Many of these actions are able to be customized further, as seen on the far right.

There are fewer triggers than actions, but most of the essential ones are included. In addition to those pictured above, Motorola also includes triggers such as WiFi connection status, Bluetooth device connection, and headphone status. While obviously not extensive, Motorola’s choices do cover most of the bases that an average user would need.

Making custom profiles is simple enough, and requires users to add just at least one action and one trigger. The custom rule can then be saved under a user chosen name, and enabled or disabled at will. I’ve made rules to change settings when connected to my home WiFi and also when connected to my home stereo, and found that the custom made rules actually work quite well.

While Smart Actions will obviously never be able to replace Tasker, I am actually pleasantly surprised to say that it is really quite good. It is more advanced than some of the more basic automation apps, and offers enough customization to put it into a much more useful category than others, without the extremely difficult learning curve of Tasker. Although I still intend to learn Tasker, I don’t doubt that Smart Actions will end up being very useful to many users, and perhaps get them started on a path that leads to further automation and customization.

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Aaron Orquia

Aaron Orquia is an associate editor at Pocketables. He has been using Android and Linux since he bought his first computer years ago, and his interest in technology, software, and tweaking both to work just right has only grown stronger since then. His current gadgets include a OnePlus One, a Pebble smartwatch, and an Acer C720 Chromebook.

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6 thoughts on “A look at Motorola Smart Actions on the Droid RAZR MAXX HD

  • November 28, 2012 at 2:33 am
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    I don’t really see much use in an app like this. You say it’s easier to use than Tasker, but I’m not sure it is. Tasker works on the exact same if/then system, with triggers and actions that in some cases are named exactly the same thing. The UI is different, and perhaps easier, but I think the difference is minimal. There seems to be a misconception going around that because Tasker is inherently more powerful, it’s also more difficult to use for simple things. You might spend 5 minutes setting up something in this app, or 10 minutes doing it in Tasker. The problem is that if you find something this app doesn’t do, you end up having to go back to Tasker and learn that too.

    My point is, these ready made solutions are very basic. So basic that just doing the same thing in Tasker is a lot less complicated than people think when they see my 100+ action Tasker-made APPS. You don’t need to learn origami to write on paper, so I find it a bit illogical to avoid writing on paper because it can be used for origami.

    Reply
  • November 28, 2012 at 6:21 am
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    You’re right, this does seem easier to learn than Tasker. I wonder if this might eventually become an official Google app, since Motorola is now owned by Google, thus opening it up to even more people.

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  • November 28, 2012 at 6:41 am
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    I have a Razr M and use Smart Actions a lot. I have no doubt that Tasker is indeed more powerful and when I will “hit the wall” with Smart Actions I will certainly give it a try. However, it is good to have choices, right? Ever noticed how many file managers, media players and what not are available on Google Play :-)? Why not an alternative to Tasker?

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    • November 28, 2012 at 8:13 am
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      There are plenty of alternatives to Tasker, one even shares the plugin structure with Tasker. I just think there should be more of a benefit to an app for it to exist when something so similar already does. The problem with these officially endorsed bloatware apps is that people who aren’t that into third party apps start using these even if a third party solution would be better suited. I’m a bigger fan of third party applications being pre-loaded on devices. What if motorola took the money it spent on this and sent it off to the Tasker dev to hire a UI development team to make Tasker more user friendly? Motorola is a Google owned company, and Google seems to want to compete with the apps that make people buy Android to begin with. I know Samsung’s My Files certainly hasn’t helped the sale of Root Explorer, to take an example. And instead of buying ezPDF and build on that, Samsung made its own S-Note, leaving users with two apps that are too shitty to compete with similar apps on the iPad, just in two different ways.

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  • February 6, 2013 at 4:09 am
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    I have a Droid RAZR Maxx, and I was using Smart Actions to see if it was easier than Tasker. I found Smart Actions to be too buggy and eventually cause more issues than it was worth. It started out OK, but eventually it just wasn’t for me. I’m back with Tasker, and one of the side effects is that I find myself exploring and creating tasks to match some of the Smart Actions functionality. I’ll keep checking back with Smart Actions to see if they’ve fixed any of the issues, but I think that I’ve made a more permanent change to stay with Tasker!

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  • August 10, 2013 at 7:52 am
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    Quite disappointed in Smart Actions. Twice in the first week it failed to detect a meeting in Google Calendar, and the phone went off. Gone off in the middle of the night while charging….. Will be looking at Tasker

    Reply

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